As the sole major-label progressive-metal act, Dream Theater invariably set the standard as the flagship band of the genre. With the numerically themed OCTAVARIUM (including eight tracks signifying the band's eighth release) the shred-rock quintet continues to challenge themselves creatively. Opening track "The Root Of All Evil" picks up the thread that began with "The Glass Prison" (SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE) and carried forward to "This Dying Soul" (TRAIN OF THOUGHT). Drummer Mike Portnoy's lyrics for these songs read like a set of deeply personal journal entries documenting his painful recovery experience, further disclosed by a footnote nod to Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. OCTAVARIUM chiefly finds Dream Theater stepping back from elaborate fretboard acrobatics, focusing on vocal-based, song-oriented material ("I Walk Beside You," "The Answer Lies Within"); much in the spirit of AWAKE and their breakthrough album IMAGES AND WORDS. "Sacrificed Sons" captures the heartbreak of the 9/11 tragedy, while the grandiose title track showcases a melodic, Styx-inspired keyboard solo by Jordan Rudess (better known for a blisteringly frenetic style). Twenty years since their inception, Dream Theater prevails as the benchmark of modern prog metal.